You wake up shivering / too hot. You’re coughing. You have aches and pains. You can’t go to work. Despite our increased interest in health and wellbeing, the numbers of people getting the flu are on the rise.

Last year, 2018, record levels of patients were hospitalised for the flu. If you have symptoms or are generally unwell the overriding advice is to rest and stay at home. But what about work?

Work-related illness – the figures

According to a report by the ESRI in 2018, the health sector had the highest number of days lost per worker due to work-related illness. In this sector, 524 days were lost per 1,000 workers. As a result, and due to the high-risk nature of working in healthcare, it’s highly advised any nurses or healthcare professionals get the flu vaccine annually.

This was followed by transport (507), agriculture, forestry and fishing (358) and industry (351), while the lowest reported numbers were within the construction sector (313).

Best protocol

Most companies have clear protocol in place for when you’re sick and can’t work. These guidelines generally include:

  • Who you should contact when you’re sick  – most commonly your manager
  • When you should contact that person, e.g contact at least an hour before your work day is due to begin
  • The appropriate method of contact, e.g over the phone or via email
  • When a medical or sick cert is needed

When do you need a sick certificate for work?

Uncertified sick leave, or being out of work sick without the need for a medical cert usually doesn’t exceed 2/3 days.

Most employers will ask to see a medical certificate if you are off work for anything over this. Over two days is a safe guideline, but you should check your own company’s sick leave policy to be sure.

A medical certificate must be signed by a doctor and should indicate when you will be able to return to work. If you are still sick after this period, you may need to get a new sick cert from your doctor.

Do you get paid for sick days in Ireland?

There’s no obligation for an employer to pay you while you’re on sick leave. Specific information on this should be included in your contract.

You are however entitled to your terms of employment, including sick leave, in writing – so if you don’t have this, ask your manager or HR for the terms and conditions of sick leave.

If your employer does pay you for sick leave, there are probably still limitations re length of time out of work. For full information on all the legalities of sick leave in Ireland visit Citizen’s Information, or if you work within the civil service, visit the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme.

How many days can you take off?

Again, this is dependent on your sickness and the sick leave policy at the company you work for. If your absence is deemed excessive you may be asked for full details of your absence, including medical reports.

What to do next?

If you have a cold or flu, it’s important to rest and drink lots of fluids. The HSE has recently created a practical new website dedicated to answering questions on common illnesses, including the cold, cough and flu.

If your illness is more serious, visit a doctor while keeping your manager in the loop on your circumstances.

If you get sick a lot it may also be worthwhile taking a look at your workload and whether you are taking on too much. Those experiencing burnout often don’t realise quite how stressed or unwell they are.

Some tell-tale signs of burnout at work include forgetting things when usually you’d be sharp, low energy levels, loss of inspiration and motivation and a desire to be alone.

If these symptoms sound familiar, make time to take care of yourself, take your annual leave throughout the year and eat well.

Speak to your manager, decide what is most important and delegate work that has landed on your desk but isn’t your area.

If you’re interested in more articles like these visit the wellness section of our career insights centre.